Movie review: 'Little Red Wagon' a noble cause, but overbearing drama

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The charity work of Florida teen Zach Bonner is noble, but it makes a lousy backdrop for an "inspired by a true story" drama that beats the viewer over the head with its message.

When Zach was 8 years old (as portrayed here by Chandler Canterbury), he was inspired by coverage of Hurricane Charley (which hit the Florida Keys in 2004) to help the victims by collecting bottled water and other goods. This effort mushroomed, as writer Patrick Sheane Duncan's syrupy and simplistic script tells it, into a concerted drive to get backpacks full of stuff into the hands of homeless kids.

Director David Anspaugh ("Rudy," "Hoosiers") labors to create some tension here by playing up the family squabbles between Zach's mom (Anna Gunn) and his teenage sister (Daveigh Chase) — and by creating a parallel story of a single mom (Frances O'Connor) and son (Dylan Matzke) who fall on hard times.

The melodramatic storyline and moralizing tone are overbearing, and only O'Connor's performance rises above the level of a Hallmark Channel rerun.; —


'Little Red Wagon'

Opens Friday, Nov. 30, at area theaters; rated PG for thematic elements and some language; 103 minutes.